I’ve been neck deep in Assassin’s Creed Unity for the last week and a bit. After someone asked me on Tumblr and in real life to do a review of it, I decided why not! I haven’t played any of the recent Assassin’s Creed games, nor have I played the older ones in a very long time. I decided to go and do some research and play some of the older titles in the series so that it would all be fresh in my mind when I started the review for Unity. Shortly after, I realized that I had completely forgotten that Ubisoft have been churning out new entries in the series almost weekly! Holy crap, so much Ass-Creed!
After delving into the universe of AC to refresh my memory, I have a lot of opinions (some old, some new) on where this franchise has come from, where it’s going, where it should go and how it affects my opinion of Unity. Rather than include it in the article/video review for Unity, I figured I would do a completely separate article to showcase all of my thoughts before my review of Unity drops tomorrow.
Luckily/unluckily (depending on how you look at it) Unity was somewhat broken on launch day which gave me plenty of time to play the older titles and get reacquainted with the old gang consisting of Altair, Desmond, Ezio, Connor, Edward and the boss man himself, Mr. Master Inventor/Wizard/Painter/General Renaissance Bad-ass: Leonardo DaVinci.
So here are my thoughts on the history of the main series of Assassin’s Creed games:
You can skip to the graph below if you want to bypass the waffling!
To begin with, I will say that I was quite fond of Assassin’s Creed one, loved Assassin’s Creed two, didn’t hate Brotherhood, really disliked Revelations, wasn’t a fan of three, and loved Black Flag but not because it was a good Assassin’s Creed game, but because it was without a doubt the best pirate game I have ever played on console.
The original AC introduced us to a whole new world of possibility with the awesome open world gameplay, Prince of Persia style free-running/combat mechanics and an incredibly unique story with likeable characters who’s motives not only made sense, but were also easy to understand and enjoyable to relate to.
AC two introduced us to Ezio, the single most charismatic assassin to ever live. With his best bud Leonardo DaVinci (who is easily my favourite depiction of a historic character because he was already a personal hero of mine outside of the game) constructing him all kinds of goodies and fueled by hatred after his brothers and father are hanged (Unity’s story borrows the father aspect of this to some degree) Ezio is sucked in to the secret life of an assassin which his father had kept from him. The second game stepped everything up, from graphics, being able to swim, loads of new weapons, customization, the ability to own shops to make some Assass-cashish, a bigger world to explore and loads more content, it really was an upgrade in every way.
Brotherhood was a little bit of a side-step rather than an upgrade, but not a major failure, just a bit of a disappointment. It felt like it was swiftly whipped together just to tie the fans over while pretty much running exactly the same engine as AC2. I still to this day think that Brotherhood could have been a DLC pack, which would have been a lot less disappointing. It did however feature multiplayer for the first time in the series which provided a fresh take on PvP with some really cool game modes that broke the mold of the standard ” team death match, CTF and free-for-all” modes that most games have.
I really thought Revelations sucked. Won’t even bother going into that one too much but google it, google the story, google the “hook blade” and decide for yourself but my guess is you were/will be just as disappointed as I was.
AC three was a bit “eh…” to me, but I really did like the whole “American revolution ft. George Washington” thing. It also included an updated multiplayer which provided a fresh take on the already unique PvP game modes. The introduction of naval battles paved the way for Black Flag and I did genuinely enjoy some parts of the game. It was also the first in the series that felt truly ‘open world-y’ to me and had some new additions to free-running such as climbing trees and moving through houses/buildings. There was also a significant improvement to the overall feel of the world, with large forests to explore and hunt animals in, and the open battlefields which had large crowds of soldiers fighting on screen, it really felt like you were actually fighting in the war. Until you tried to walk over to where the soldiers were, which really shattered the illusion for me.
Black Flag/Four was the first time in years that I actually truly enjoyed an Assassin’s Creed game, but not because it was an Assassin’s Creed game. Because Pirates. I have played many pirate games in my time but Black Flag is easily my favourite. I actually had to keep reminding myself that it was an AC game. I don’t even like it all that much as part of the franchise to be honest, it feels more like a side project made by the same developers. With a huge open sea map to sail across and explore, awesome sword/gun play, multiplayer, gorgeous graphics and the first likable character since Ezio, AC 4 hit the nail right on the head for me and I still would prefer to see a Black Flag II before any other games.
Check out the little graph below for a quick rundown of how I felt about the games.
I remember being extremely excited for the first Assassin’s Creed. I saw the artwork, read the previews and was totally invested in the game. Then it came out and it was everything that I was hoping for (minus the huge open world) and after the first mission showcases all of the abilities of the assassin, only to have them stripped away from you, man, I was hooked. I’m pretty sure that was one of the first games that I tried to 100%. AC 2 was hyped up like crazy. Do you remember that video of Ezio at the masquerade party? That had me so pumped to play the game! Thankfully it lived up to the hype. AC 2 is my favourite Assassin’s Creed game. It also had Leonardo DaVinci in it, providing you with all kinds of cool inventions which was totally awesome!
After the first two, I feel like the series kind of lost it’s way a bit. The unique story took some predictable turns and lost it’s edge. The gameplay/worlds got very repetitive and familiar with only minor changes to keep you interested – usually just a gimmicky weapon or skill. I did enjoy the tomahawk chop in AC 3 but not enough to make me love the whole game the same way I did with 2 and 4. I feel like there was a missed opportunity there just because of how rich native American culture is. They could have delved way more into Connor’s tribal life and I would have really enjoyed that. The weather and seasonal cycles were a nice addition. The American war side of the game was quite interesting, I am a fan of historic figures being depicted differently to how history remembers them. For example, George Washington’s alternate history where he goes mad with power and pronounces himself king. I won’t ruin the story but it is definitely worth checking it out because I found it very enjoyable.
For such a strong start to a new franchise, Assassin’s Creed managed to lose it’s identity somewhere in the shower of titles, apps, comics, live action shorts and books. It’s a shame really, because I love the whole mythology of the story, I love the premise of there being this huge secret war being fought in the shadows of history. You could apply these characters and settings to just about any historic event and make it interesting.
I want to leave Unity out of this article as much as possible but at this point I feel I should mention that as a story, Unity feels like AC is heading back to the good old days. Not quite there yet, but it’s definitely a step back, in the right direction. With that said, I think I will always love Assassin’s Creed games. I may not play them all, but I am far too excited by the premise not to be at least interested in them – even if that means just Wikipedia-ing the plot summary, but with Unity I was happy to be playing it and glad I finished it.
As for the future of the franchise, I know everyone raves about feudal Japan and yeah that would be awesome. Assas-samurai would be the coolest mash-up since Nazi-Zombies! Going through Samurai training would be an awesome start to any game and I feel like few could pull it off as well as Assassin’s Creed could. But for me personally I would love to see – and bare with me for this one – I would love to see an Assassin’s Creed game centered around Robin Hood. Before you close your browser and go rage punch a goat, hear me out.
Imagine how awesome it would be if Ubisoft started making historical characters (real or not) the main character in their games. Now think about how many stories there are about Mr. Hood. Off the top of my head, imagine Robin is supposed to be an Assassin for the royals but rejects that way of life. Even though his entire family is part of the Brotherhood of Assassin’s, he rejects the ideals of the Assassin order. In turn, he rejects his family and becomes an outlaw. But with a hero’s heart and knowing that just because he didn’t accept, doesn’t mean someone else won’t he decides to stick around to protect the people of his village. He robs the rich, gives to the poor and defends against Templar’s and Assassin’s alike. That’s a story I would be interested in playing through. As for his weapons, well his training/natural assassin skill would account for his skill with a bow and sword, but just think of all the awesome add-on’s you could have for the bow! You could have a grappling bow that launches a zip line to go up and down buildings and mountains for one, something the series has needed for a while I think. He even already has a hood! They could make it that it’s an Assassin’s hood and he dyes it green to blend in with the forest which he lives in. See how awesome it would be now?
That kind of thing could be applied to any number of historic characters and I think would make an interesting and fresh take on the game setting.
I think that Assassin’s Creed started with a lot of promise, hit it’s stride with AC2 and then lost something along the way. AC3 was an impressive step up in terms of mechanics and location but Connor failed to capture me the same way that Ezio did. Black Flag was a huge step in the right direction but didn’t feel all that much like an AC game, which was a very good thing! I loved exploring the open seas and plundering for treasure while not having to worry all that much about the whole Assassin/Templar thing. As far as I’m concerned that was a pirate game and a damn good one at that.
Stay tuned for my review on Unity which will tie into this article and is set to drop tomorrow afternoon.
Did you agree with what I said? Who would you like to see an AC game based around? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @pikalew